Dysregulation of Alternative Poly-adenylation as a Potential Player in Autism Spectrum Disorder.
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We present here the hypothesis that alternative poly-adenylation (APA) is dysregulated in the brains of individuals affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), due to disruptions in the calcium signaling networks. APA, the process of selecting different poly-adenylation sites on the same gene, yielding transcripts with different-length 3' untranslated regions (UTRs), has been documented in different tissues, stages of development and pathologic conditions. Differential use of poly-adenylation sites has been shown to regulate the function, stability, localization and translation efficiency of target RNAs. However, the role of APA remains rather unexplored in neurodevelopmental conditions. In the human brain, where transcripts have the longest 3' UTRs and are thus likely to be under more complex post-transcriptional regulation, erratic APA could be particularly detrimental. In the context of ASD, a condition that affects individuals in markedly different ways and whose symptoms exhibit a spectrum of severity, APA dysregulation could be amplified or dampened depending on the individual and the extent of the effect on specific genes would likely vary with genetic and environmental factors. If this hypothesis is correct, dysregulated APA events might be responsible for certain aspects of the phenotypes associated with ASD. Evidence supporting our hypothesis is derived from standard RNA-seq transcriptomic data but we suggest that future experiments should focus on techniques that probe the actual poly-adenylation site (3' sequencing). To address issues arising from the use of post-mortem tissue and low numbers of heterogeneous samples affected by confounding factors (such as the age, gender and health of the individuals), carefully controlled in vitro systems will be required to model the effect of calcium signaling dysregulation in the ASD brain.
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Frontiers in molecular neuroscience, 2017, 10 pp. 279 - ?